Starting from the Purusha Sukta - there is the birth-based four-fold division of humanity - Brahmins,kshatriyas,Vaishyas and Sudras.


refers to an explicit rejection of birth-based caste

Not by birth are the Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya, Sudra and Mlechchha separated, but by virtues and works. - Sukra Niti (Sukracharya's system of morals) 1.75-76

but the basic four-caste framework is maintained - either by birth or by qualities.

The Tamil moralist and poet Auvaiyar rejected the four-fold classification completely:

She states that human beings can be divided only into two divisions, high and low, depending upon how much they are willing to share their fortunes with others.

சாதி இரண்டொழிய வேறில்லை சாற்றுங்கால் நீதிவழுவா நெறிமுறையின் - மேதினியில் இட்டார் பெரியோர் இடாதார் இழிகுலத்தோர் பட்டாங்கி லுள்ள படி

Are there similar heterodox classifications in canonical Sanskrit works?

  • English is the languge of this forum. If you wish to insert a quote from another language it should include a translation. Jun 8, 2023 at 12:43
  • It should be obvious that the paragraph above the Tamil citation, after "she states that" is the translation.
    – S K
    Jun 8, 2023 at 13:20

1 Answer 1


Vajrasuchika Upanishad says the following:

It is said that a Brahmana is so because of his caste. This is not acceptable because there are diverse communities in the world... ...Among these many have attained the highest rank, despite of their lower birth and given proof of their wisdom. Therefore a Brahmana is not so because of his community.

According to Mahabharatha:

He is called a Brahmana in whom are truth, gifts, abstention from injury to others, compassion, shame, benevolence, and penance. He who is engaged in the profession of battle, who studies the Vedas, who makes gifts (to Brahmanas) and takes wealth (from those he protects) is called a Kshatriya. He who earns fame from keep of cattle, who is employed in agriculture and the means of acquiring wealth, who is pure in behaviour and attends to the study of the Vedas, is called a Vaisya. He who takes pleasure in eating every kind of food, who is engaged in doing every kind of work, who is impure in behaviour, who does not study the Vedas, and whose conduct is unclean, is said to be a Sudra. If these characteristics be observable in a Sudra, and if they be not found in a Brahmana, then such a Sudra is no Sudra, and, such a Brahmana is no Brahmana.

Avvaiyaar's this text is dated to the 12th century Chozha period which is very different from the Ancient Sanskrit texts. I'm sure that there are many poets and commentators in the Sanskrit writing such stuff in that period of 12th century or later.

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